Juvenile Delinquency: What You Need to Know

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Children are treated differently than adults in the American court system. The goal of juvenile court is rehabilitation rather than punishment. For this reason, the court exercises broad discretion in designing a plan that meets the rehabilitative needs of the individual child. When a juvenile commits what would be considered a crime if committed by an adult, the plan or disposition determined by the court is analogous to the criminal sentencing of an adult.

In New Jersey, the juvenile code lays out alternatives for care, ranging from the least restrictive community service options to placement in a residential treatment center. Incarceration is intended only as a last resort.

In determining the appropriate disposition for a juvenile adjudicated delinquent, the court weighs several factors:

  • The nature of the offense
  • The degree of injury or damage
  • The age and previous offenses
  • Whether the disposition supports family strength and unity
  • The involvement of the family
  • The unique needs of the child
  • The academic and social development of the child
  • The impact of the offense on the victim and community
  • The threat to the public posed by the juvenile and other relevant history

Appropriate legal representation is essential at all stages of a juvenile court proceeding. A prolonged disposition can have serious consequences that carry into the child’s adult life. Juveniles need legal representation in order to navigate the system, ensure access to the services and programs best suited to their needs, and ensure their timely release.

If your child is charged with juvenile delinquency, don’t despair.  It’s important to remember that the court’s ultimate goal is to ensure your child is held accountable and receives all treatment necessary for rehabilitation. 

Posted in Criminal Defense | Tagged delinquency, juvenile crime, NJ criminal defense